How Far Down A Bar of Soap Should You Go?

Sounds, sights, and smells of the lockdown. Things apparent now that were not apparent before.


I hate that. Don’t you? No? Well, it’s a pet one of mine. People on Social Media ask a question, often an interesting and an engaging question, but then they round it off with their beloved one-word sentence. ‘Go’.

Well, I won’t ‘go’, thank you all the same. 

What am I, some stable boy, poised on hands and knees, ready to sprint to the barn for another bag of shite as soon as the master says? Nuh huh, not me. If you want to know the answer to your great question, you can bloody sod off and figure it out for yourself, matey. I’m staying right here. Not ‘go'ing anywhere. No way…

So, yes, ignore the ‘Go’ which comprises the third sentence of this post. I only put it there to hopefully annoy you and demonstrate why people shouldn’t put ‘Go’ at the end of their tweets.

Ignore it. Just answer the question.

What are the most memorable sensory elements of a lockdown? What things assail you that never assailed you before?

If there’s a particular aroma that might evoke this period for me in times to come, I think it might be that of Wright’s Coal Tar soap. Back in the early days of all this, I had hand wash on my shopping list. We had some already because, guess what, we used to wash our hands a bit before this. We just needed a little more. But, as you’ll know, there wasn’t any hand wash to be had, it having gone the way of all toilet roll. So I bought a three pack of Coal Tar soap and, although the hand wash reappeared when we all got the measure of panic buying, I kept on with the bar of soap. Everyone else in the house went with the hand wash but I’ve been a Coal Tar man ever since. I love the smell of it. It’s got a no-nonsense, bricks and mortar bang off it that at least implies that it is killing everything it touches. I’m now down to the sliver of my final bar and I swirl it and swirl it around in my hands as it gets smaller and smaller every day. On that point, how far down a bar of soap should you go before you deem it useless? Go.

For a lockdown sight, I think I will remember the dusky little boy at the end of my street who seems to spend every hour of the sunny days on his little trampoline in the front garden. He has a tiny asthmatic pug who wheeze-barks every time we pass. We wave and smile at each other. The boy, not the dog. “Very sweet," you might say, "but perhaps not the most vibrant single vision to retain.” Very true but I haven’t told you the best part yet. The kid on the trampoline, always friendly and always happy, always wears a crash helmet.

For a sound, I’m sorry to be obvious, but it has to be the birds. There’s always been birds and I’ve always heard them but now they’re just a bigger part of my day. The raucousness of the little ones who come to nibble and bathe in my back yard is a joyous thing, for sure. But my favourite is a little bird of indeterminate species who sits on top of a scraggy tree at the side of the lane where we walk. He sings with such ferocity and pitch. Is he seeking a partner? Is he defending his own part of the lane? I haven’t a clue. But I think I will remember the level of output that such a tiny thing can make. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

I’d be interested to hear about the sights and sounds that you reckon you might take away from your time in social isolation. But I know you probably won’t tell me. We may be restricted but we’ve still got things to do, boxsets to watch, bread to bake. No time for lots of silly answers.

So, if you could just address the ‘bar of soap’ one, that’ll do.


Fles said...

I like the idea of going back to soap. I don't know why we ever moved away from it (except in shared washrooms - one doesn't want to use soap without knowing whose hands it was in last, I suppose). I'm fairly sure soap lasted longer, too, and it didn't come in a single-use plastic container.

For myself, I never threw away a last bit of soap - picking up the remnant and combining it with the new bar always meant that they became on, as I recall: kind of a Trigger's Broom effect.

I've been walking a great deal more during lockdown: I've lived in Wolverton for some eighteen years but never really explored it properly. I don't think one often does, as an adult - as a kid, on a bike, I explored everywhere but, as a grown-up (whatever that means) I tend to just go direct to my destination. Well, not now: I've just been heading off in a random direction and taking diversions whenever I've seen a path I haven't taken before. What's more, I've also been exploring the natural areas around where we live - lots of the Ouse Valley has been given over to nature, which means I get to see swans and ducks and geese and herons and horses running free. It's been wonderful - and helped in no small measure by having had the best April weather I can ever remember.

A colleague once said to me, "With change comes opportunity," which sounded wiser at the time than it probably was but has proven to be very true at the moment, because lockdown has opened the way to experience things differently or to look at them from a fresh perspective. I think we might look back on this point in history positively, even fondly, once it's all over.

Ken Armstrong said...

It's a brilliant solution - meld the old bar into the new one. I'm all over that. :)

Jim Murdoch said...

Over the last year I have become increasingly aware of the variety of birds that frequent our carpark and the grove of trees beside it. I still, however, couldn’t identify any one species—bar the gulls—from their cries. And I discount the crows because we have a whole variety of corvids who visit regularly. But you’re right the racket these tiny balls of fluff can make is disproportionate to say the least. I couldn’t believe it the first time Birdie broke into song and by “song” I mean car alarm. God he loves his car alarm. He’s terrible at learning tunes. Carrie and I both sing to him on a regular basis and occasionally we realise he’s trying to imitate what we’ve been singing but it’s generally pretty tuneless and mournful. I suppose that’s what I sound like to him. Fair dues.

As far as the whole lockdown palaver goes I do feel a bit left out. As I’ve mentioned before it’s pretty much life as normal here. I don’t feel locked in or down or out. I missed having lunch with my daughter but really that’s been the worst thing I’ve had to endure. We’ve never gone hungry or had to start tearing up our library to use as bog roll. I’ve only been out of the house once—technically twice since it was two trips in quick succession—to drop bottles into the bottle bank by the Co-Op and there was hardly anyone about to have to avoid. I could last for months like this, years even as long as neither of us falls sick with anything else. I do know we’re lucky and we’re grateful to be lucky and long may our luck hold out.

I have used coal tar soap at least once in the distant past. It’s pleasant, yes, but I’ve never gone out of my way to buy it. Or any particular brand of soap. I used to like Radox Bath Salts, the pine variety, but as I mostly shower these days what would be the point of buying them? Bathing has always been a bit of a necessary evil. I’ve never really got those people who wallow in tubs surrounded by candles, sipping Chateau de Chassilier (10 bonus points if you guess the cultural reference without looking it up) and reading the latest Harold Robbins.

Ken Armstrong said...

I've failed you. I had to look up the reference. Though I swear I did think MP when I first saw it. :)

Marc Paterson said...

The sounds of lockdown in sleepy my Norfolk village has perversely been the sound of local chatter as they pass by our home. I guess it's because more people are around during the day and not at work. It' pleasant hearing families nattering as they pass.

Sights haven't changed much, although the sight of me with a scarf round my face at the local shop was probably fuel for someone else's observation.

Smells is easy, it's freshly baked goods. Bread, muffins, brownies and even lemon tarts have been produced by my daughter.

Bella7 said...

I have a mixture of bars of soap and hand wash around the house. I will take a bar right down to a crumbly sliver still using the small broken off pieces. Can’t bring myself to collect the remnants to form another bar. Too messy. I keep the soap in my bathroom on a sponge instead of a soap dish. The gunge from the wet soap sinks into the sponge which can be used to clean the sink. A top cleaning tip from ‘The YouTube’. Love those. :) Another soap tip is to take one with you on your travels when staying away from home, say a hotel. Remember them? Unwrap and leave unused. It’s supposed to act as an air freshener. Have tried it. Didn’t think it did much. Sticking to fragranced candle. I’ve been putting particularly fragrant soap bars in drawers with clothes for years. Makes them smell nice.

Sights I’ll particularly remember from these unusual times are; photos popping up everywhere of various wildlife walking through fairly deserted streets. In towns and cities particularly. And photos my daughter sends of herself and grandson having a rather splendid time of it. Lockdown has enabled them to spend a lot of quality time together which has benefited them both.

As for sounds. The significant reduction in the usual everyday noise. Has made a lot of where we live feel so still and quiet.

Smells. My first lockdown latte! Yay! Bought from my local Garden Centre which has recently opened a little farm shop. Can and have made them meself at home, but it feels more of a treat having it made for you. I miss the smell and bustle of coffee shops/bars/wherever good coffee’s made.